Criminal Charges

Every criminal case is different, with a different set of circumstances and a different alleged offense. The penalties you face depend on the charge against you and a number of other factors. From the moment you are arrested, you are likely thinking about these penalties and what could happen if you are convicted. A local Florida defense attorney can help you see what may be in store for you and can potentially help you avoid the worst of these consequences.

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Florida Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

Generally, there are two main classifications of criminal offenses: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are considered the less serious of the two, though they still have the potential for incarceration. Usually, a misdemeanor conviction will carry no more than one year in jail. A felony, on the other hand, could result in multiple years in prison.

Both felonies and misdemeanors are further divided into classifications based on seriousness. The tables below show those classifications and the maximum potential penalty you can face if convicted.

Felony Classification Potential Prison Sentence Potential Fines Example
Capital Felony Death Penalty
Life Felony 40 years to Life $15,000
1st Degree Felony 30 years $10,000
2nd Degree Felony 15 years $10,000  Aggravated Battery
3rd Degree Felony 5 years $5,000  Aggravated Assault

Most criminal offenses in Florida are of the minor, misdemeanor category. These include simple assaults, shoplifting, first offense DUI, and all the most commonly charged criminal offenses in Florida courts.

Misdemeanor Classification Potential Jail Sentence Potential Fines Example
1st Degree Misdemeanor 1 year in jail $1,000  Battery
2nd Degree Misdemeanor 60 days in jail $500  Assault

As you can see, even minor misdemeanor offenses do have a potential for jail time as part of a sentence, if you are convicted. However, this is rare in most misdemeanor cases. We can go over what you are realistically facing if you are found guilty of a criminal charge in Florida, as part of a free legal consultation.

Florida Criminal Sentencing

When a judge determines your sentence, the classification of your crime is simply a starting point. Much more than this criminal classification is taken into consideration. This gives them a base from which to work. Things like the facts of your case and your criminal history will adjust the judges sentence and will even impact your eligibility for a favorable plea bargain.

Presentence Investigation and Report

One of the biggest tools a judge will use in determining your sentence is called a presentence investigation and the subsequent presentence report. This investigation is typically conducted by a probation officer whose job it is to determine your potential success under community supervision. To this end, they will compile a report with all sorts of information for the judge to take into consideration.

Your presentence report could contain information like:

  • Facts of your case
  • Detailed criminal history
  • Employment history and current status
  • Drug abuse or alcohol evaluation
  • Mental health history
  • Pertinent medical information
  • Details into your family life and support
  • Sentencing recommendation

The reporting officer will include a recommendation to the judge on whether or not you are a good risk for community supervision (probation). While probation isn’t an option in all cases, things like a clean criminal record and good community support will make a difference.

The judge isn’t required to follow the recommendation made on the presentence report, though they will likely give it considerable weight.

Your Defense Lawyer’s Role at Sentencing

When it comes time for sentencing, you may think your defense attorney’s job is done, that the rest is in the hands of the judge and the prosecutor. This isn’t true. It is your defense lawyer’s job to tirelessly advocate on your behalf throughout the entire criminal process. This includes sentencing time. By advocating for a more lenient sentence based on your positive attributes, your lack of criminal history, your ties to the community, and your role as a family provider (for example), your attorney can potentially sway the judge to not hand down the harshest of penalties.